The appointment of Steven Kelly to the National Energy Board is a mystery. On the surface it makes no sense at all.
Mr. Kelly was the author of a report submitted by Kinder Morgan to the NEB. This report makes the economic case for Kinder Morgan’s planned new pipeline that would carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to Burnaby, and thence by oil tankers overseas.
Thus, it would appear that Mr. Kelly could be passing judgement on his own report; actually not quite that, as they tell us it would be other board members making the recommendation.
This appearance of a conflict of interest should have rung alarm bells before the appointment was even considered, and Mr. Kelly should never have taken up the appointment.
The government minister who formally made the appointment, Greg Rickford, almost certainly knew of the conflict of interest both from his interview with Mr. Kelly and from his consultation with Peter Watson, the chair of the NEB.
The reaction of the NEB has been to delay the proceedings and remove Mr. Kelly’s evidence from the hearing. This suggests that Mr. Kelly was appointed over the objections of the NEB.
So, the question is why did the government insist on the appointment in spite of the conflict of interest?
Here are four current theories:
1)There is evidence submitted to the NEB provided by or associated with Mr. Kelly that the NEB does not want to have to consider.
2) The government wanted the Kinder Morgan hearings to be postponed until after the election.
3) The government does not consider a conflict of interest to be relevant to making a decision.
4) Sheer incompetence.
Whichever it is, either the government has been interfering with what is supposed to be an independent process or it is incompetent. Is there another explanation?
David Huntley, Burnaby